Marketers told – don’t get into social media just because it’s fashionable

Using social media in a marketing campaign is becoming a “lazy” choice for marketers attracted by lower media costs and agencies who want to follow the cool kids, a debate heard today.  

Michael McShane, managing director of drinks house Brown-Forman which includes brands such as Jack Daniel’s and Southern Comfort – told the Australian Marketing Institute debate: “People tend to get a bit lazy. They come up with these new media options as a way of saving money rather than as the right answer to a problem.”

He later added: “In this environment, as spend is contracting, one of the things I do see coming through is a focus on the numbers rather than the strategy. They start answering the question you haven’t even asked.”

Adam Ballesty, marketing manager of sportswear brand Skins, had a similar view. He said: “A lot of marketers are saying ‘We’ve got to get on Facebook’ . But who cares? Marketers are not thinking about the brand strategy. Don’t just do it because all the cool kids are doing it.

“Digital is bloody hard. Brands get a Facebook page and start Twittering and get a thousand followers, but what does it mean? You need to have a message the consumers want to hear. Digital marketing is is one thing where you can make some big mistakes expensively.”

Jon Bird, CEO of retail agency Ideaworks, said: “There is a lot of focus on new media, but you have got to start by getting your strategy and message right first.”

And Shaun Branagan, ECD of AdPartners, added: “Watch out for your agencies – everyone wants to follow the fashion.” He also warned there was a risk that consumers were become tired of similar online campaigns. He said: “People just switch off.”

And although it’s possible to be carried away by the takeup of new services such as Twitter, it’s also important to remember that many consumers are not involved, said Branagh. “There are the massive passives and the cool kids,” he said

Naked Communications’ Adam Ferrier said that while accelerating media fragmentation offered a major challenge, it also offered a new opportunities. He said: “I think it creates an opportunity to be much more targeted with your communications and have a molecular model of brand building. You are building up communication plans by pods of communication.” He cited the example of Nike, that talks to individual communities such as runners.


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